Beware of the Side Hustle

"Side Hustle" is a popular term often used by millennials to refer to a part-time gig.  SHs either involve something that you're not passionate about and tolerate for the sake of earning extra income, or something you are passionate about but is not producing to the degree that it can replace your primary income.  

While side hustles can spawn creativity, encouraging us to explore non-traditional methods of income, e.g. crafts or service- they can also be distracting, subtracting time from things we're truly passionate about.

Here are few things to ask yourself if you have a side hustle or are considering venturing into one:

  1. What's the goal?  Know why you have a side hustle.  Be it to earn extra money or to satisfy that long time fantasy of being a yoga instructor, it's essential that you "know your why."  Once you've established your why, list the desirable outcome.  Is the goal to save $5,000 for toward a debt or vacation?  Or is it  for a certain period of time, e.g. teach yoga for the summer?
  2.  Is your side hustle a distraction? This is especially important if your side hustle is not your passion.  If you're a teacher and your ultimate goal is to become an administrator, if your side hustle is not related to education or leadership, it may be subtracting time from other opportunities to increase your knowledge or gain experience that coincides with your career goal.  
  3. Is your side hustle really your dream career or business?  I once had a part-time job that I enjoyed much more than my full-time job.  I looked forward to getting off of work and going directly to another job for five more hours no matter how tired I was.  Frankly- it was easier to go to my part-time job than it was to wake up and go to my full-time job. My FT job hindered my ability to pursue my dream career because it occupied the majority of my day and minimized opportunities.  Moral of the story- if your side hustle isn't your dream, don't allow it to be a distraction.    

While I'm not opposed to having a side hustle, my personal opinion is that oftentimes too much emphasis is placed on them.  Instead of pursuing side hustles, we should go after passion and purpose.  Any side hustle that we venture into should align with our goals in some way.  Side hustles should be temporary endeavors that propel us into destiny, not indefinite time thieves that hinder our ability to take flight.  

  

#Goals

As year-end approaches, I notice a lot of people anxiously awaiting 2017.  I love change; and I acknowledge the motivational power of a fresh start.  But I also know that the mere changing of time (in and of itself) has no life-altering power.  The most effective catalyst for change is strategy.   

Strategic planning is the vehicle that gets us to our goals.  If the goal is the “what,” the strategic plan is the “how.”  So how are we getting from A to Z?  How are we getting from manuscript to publishing?  How are we increasing our followers from 500 to 5,000?  How are we going to generate an additional $10,000 in sales? 

Here’s how – we take our goals and “walk” backwards- so instead of planning from A to Z, we plan from Z to A.  We establish where we’d like to end up and create a plan based on that exact outcome.  The plan includes general strategies broken down into specific tactics.  I don’t know what your 2017 goals are, but I know that you’ll need a strategic plan to get you there. 

Here are a few tools & tips for drafting a plan to the finish line: 

1.        Write down goals – this may seem painfully obvious, but few actually do this.  In November, one of my goals was to increase that month’s revenue by a certain percentage.  When I initially thought of the goal, it was exciting.  But it wasn’t until writing it down that it became real.  Like ink on a ratified contract, writing down my goals was like signing a contract with myself.  I felt more compelled to take action than when I’d only thought about my goal. 

2.      Write down action items – when you enter your destination in the GPS it provides a map and a detailed list of directions.  Your action items are the detailed steps that will lead you to your goal.  Why is it important to write them down?  Because if not, you’ll have no viable plan!  So, if one of your goals is to increase revenue, a strategy would be to gain additional clientele; a corresponding action item may be to scout clients who may benefit from your service and submit a few proposals. 

3.      Use a planner – in most office settings calendars are required.  For some reason when it comes to personal matters and our own businesses we don’t think its necessary.  Systems facilitate order.  A planner is a system designed to facilitate order in your business.  Purchase one that you will use.  My mom laughs because my planner is like a children’s activity book, complete with stickers, colored ink and other fun inserts.  Make planning (and the idea of opening my planner) fun.  Find a planner, tangible or electronic, that will make planning enjoyable and not daunting.   

4.       There’s an app for that - technology was made for our advantage.  Find an app that will help you do the things your brain needs help with.  There’s an app for whatever you need- from money management for help with savings goals, organizers for simplified planning, habit trackers and anything else you can think of. 

You’ve heard the saying that still holds true….. “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.”    

 

 

What Homelessness Taught Me About Philanthropy

 

I remember the first time I realized what homelessness was.  I was riding down Pennsylvania Avenue with my mother and a man stood in the median of the major intersection holding a sign and a cup for change.  I don’t remember what the sign said, but I do remember his soiled clothes, overgrown beard, dirty hands, and grocery cart full of what looked like trash.  Through a lengthy Q&A session my mother explained that the man was most likely homeless, which meant he had no stable shelter.  From that day on every time we came to that intersection we put something in his cup, even if I had to give up the money I’d otherwise held on to so tightly.  In some ways, my giving to the homeless guy who I’d never met before was obligatory.  Not the type of obligatory giving that puts money in the cup because you feel pressured, but the kind that’s born out of the awareness that there is some basic human need that I am privy to, that someone else is lacking.

Being a business owner does not exclude us from the same awareness I developed upon witnessing the homeless man’s need.  Despite the legal separation that businesses and corporations have from individuals, these entities are run by human beings.  Our actions involve and affect other human beings.  And our inaction affects human beings all the more.  While the holiday season is the time when most are encouraged to give (out of holiday cheer and last minute tax write-offs), I’d encourage any business to make philanthropy a part of their organization’s culture. 

Here are a few tips:

·      Commit to giving a certain amount by the end of the year and factor that into the budget. 

·      Start at the beginning of the year so that you can pace yourself. 

·      Involve others as a way to encourage giving within your community and raise awareness about the organization.    

·      Give to multiple organizations to spread the love and broaden your influence.

·      If you’re a new business or your budget is limited, volunteer.  Tiime can be a good substitute for money. 

I don’t need to go on about the benefits of giving because it’s a known fact that you reap what you sow.  Giving is easy when you operate with the truth that the purpose of any business is to serve, and there’s no service more fulfilling than contributing to the needs of others. 

 

6 Tips for Writing Blogs People Want to Read

Blogging is one of the primary methods used by entrepreneurs and authors to relay content.  With a blog you’re able to provide more details than one will tolerate in a Facebook post.  You’re able to invoke more imagination than a single pic on Instagram.  And you’re certainly able to express more than one tweet allows.  Simply stated—if you can maintain a good blog, you can create a following based on more than wit and pics; you’ll create loyal readers who’ll not long after become loyal customers. 

Here are six tips to writing a brilliant blog:

1.     Create Intriguing Titles & Appealing Content-- Witty, intriguing titles are the bait that will hook your potential readers.  Something has to make readers want to click on the link in your Instagram profile.  Your titles don’t have to rhyme or use alliteration, but they should be short, sweet and stated in such a way that the reader wants to know more.  Once your reader has been hooked by your title you want to make sure you keep them on the page by writing something they want to read.   When deciding what to write, keep your readers’ demographics in mind.  If your blog is primarily for 18-22 year old college students you want to create content that’s appealing to that group of people. 

2.     Focus—write about one single topic.  Subtopics are perfectly fine, but don’t trail off into other subjects within your blog entries.

3.     Tell a Story- If you’ve ever watched a not-so-good movie, or read a not-so-great book, you might admit that despite the quality of the storyline, you still wanted to know how it ended.  Well, maybe that’s just me.  Despite my criticisms, if I begin reading or watch something, curiosity usually drags me to the finish.  By providing stories within your blogs, you give readers an incentive to continue reading.  They’ll be interested in how the story concludes and connects to the point of your blog. 

4.     Make a Schedule—Trying to decide on blog topics, and when to blog about them can be challenging.  Decide on the frequency in which you’ll post your blogs and then create a schedule by assigning blogs to specific dates. 

5.     Use a Grammar Guide—No one expects your blog to be written in thesis format.  But readers do expect common grammar rules to be adhered to.  A quick grammar guide can help if you’re unsure about things like word usage, subject-verb agreement, etc.  A blaring oversight can be a distracting turn-off. 

6.     Encourage Comments and Respond as Often as Possible—Engaging with your audience makes you more human and less mysteriously robotic.  Pose questions to your readers.  Don’t be afraid to make statements that provoke thought and prompt responses.  Don’t isolate your audience by writing blogs that resemble speech transcripts. 

Passion Doesn't Spoil.....

This weekend I had the pleasure of helping my mom and favorite client with an event where she sold some of her baked goods.  Though she's been baking since I can remember, this event was big for her for several reasons.  First, my mom is very "low key," preferring to stay in the background and help behind the scenes.  Yet, at this event, she had to literally "stand by" her product, greet her customers and act as a sales representative for her own product.  Second, my mother has loyal clients, most of which were brought to her via referral.  At this event she had to sell to strangers who had never tasted her baked goods and weren't referred by anyone.  Finally, my mother hates talking money!  She would rather give something away than to have to tell someone the price.  Well there was no running from that on Sunday, she had to boldly state her price (with a smile of course).  

Despite her discomfort, my mother did a spectacular job!  Not only were her desserts a hit amongst patrons, but other business owners-- including the founder of the event became instant fans!  

I was so proud of my mom.  I won't tell her age but let me put it this way-- she'll soon be retiring. Most would think she's missed her "entrepreneurial boat."  But passion is much like wine, "it just gets better with time!"  Such a trite statement, but that was the perfect analogy LOL!  But really, her passion and love for the gift she's been given still hasn't dwindled, and is still able to yield greatness.  

There are several elaborate morals of this story but the bottom line is-- it's never too late because "Passion doesn't spoil."  

The Business of Basil

Recently someone gave me a pack of Basil seeds for planting.  I was uber excited because I’d wanted to start an herb garden.  I planted the seeds with some random soil from the supermarket and watered as instructed.  A few days later we went on a weeklong family vacation.  Thinking that outdoor plants survive for a week without rain, I figured the basil would be ok.  After returning from vacation I began diligently watering my basil plant; but I still hadn’t seen a single sprout.  Realizing there was probably no hope for this plant, I dumped the seeds and soil and began again.  This time I used soil from the dollar store—I mean dirt is dirt, right?  Same deal—I returned it to a sunlit windowsill and watered daily.  After several days there was not one sprout!!!!  Knowing I couldn’t be this incapable of planting and growing basil, I spoke with a woman I know who grows her own herbs.  After telling her about my basil struggle she suggested that I re-plant, making sure the seed isn’t buried too deep under the soil.  Because she’s a pro, I took her advice and immediately re-planted, watering the plant daily.  Lo and behold—less than a week later, I had a sprout!  I now have enough basil to cook with!     

Many of our business endeavors are like my basil episode—experiments.  During these experiments, mistakes are identified and either corrected or repeated.  But just like in any study, consistency and diligence amidst error is key.  Maybe your love for baking prompted you to begin selling cakes so you decide to have a bake sale that ends up failing.  Now you try selling online to your social media audience, which yields better results.  Later, you decide to market your product to restaurant owners who want homemade cakes for their dessert menu—and jackpot!  Imagine if you had stopped at the failed bake sale, your now profitable baking business would have never had the opportunity to flourish.

We often hear that starting is the most important step in entrepreneurship, but let’s not forget the value in staying with what we start.  The start is usually exciting but once the endorphins of a new endeavor have dissipated, what will keep you going?  Failing is an action—not an individual.  When your business idea or strategy doesn’t work, scrap and re-work!  Maybe you didn’t have the right soil, and planted into the wrong foundation.  Maybe you didn’t water your “plant” enough, thus it never sprouted.  Or maybe you just need to ask someone who’s done this before and can share with you the one tip that will change your business for the better.  Keep going and your business will keep growing ;-)